For New Year’s Day, I suggested that my family and I take a day trip to Walden Pond, enjoy some nature, and visit my old preschool. Unfortunately, I had been home sick with a bad cold the previous night and did not get to celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends. I felt that a day out in sunny nature would help me recover faster, and I hadn’t been to the Concord area in a very long time. For whatever reason, I had an urge to visit my roots, where I first started my education.
My family and I enjoyed a lovely mini-hike at Walden; we walked along the pond, saw the foundation of Henry David Thoreau’s cabin, and nearly slipped on the ice-laden paths (yikes).
After, we drove to Meriam Road, where my old preschool was located. As we turned onto the road, I suddenly recognized everything- the winding road, the suburban houses, and the long soccer field in front of the school. Strange how we remember the tiniest things in life!
The school is a one-floor brick building. My classroom was located on the right side. I got out of the car and quickly peered through the windows. Everything, of course, looked different, but I recognized the red, thick door, where I greeted my teachers every morning for three years. In the classroom, we had a loft, where all the kids would climb up, read books, and play blocks up there.
I certainly don’t remember much, since preschool was nearly 17 years ago for me. However, I went through my “Experience” books when I got home, and found many old, daily newsletters and pictures from my time there. My preschool was not a typical deaf school, but rather, was designed for deaf students who were learning how to speak. At most, there were seven students, with each having varying degrees of hearing loss. Having a small number of students in the classroom was perfect for each of us; it eliminated potential noisy situations, enabled us to easily talk with each other, and have small school sessions.
Shortly after I was diagnosed with a profound hearing loss, one of my first speech therapists, Lea Watson, recommended that my parents start an “Experience” book, which is very similar to a journal, and fill the pages with tiny blurbs that detail my activities on any given day, including many hand drawn and polaroid photos. I have at least three big books that contain these entries. As I read many of the entries, I could vaguely recall some things, such as making a Fire Truck cake in pre-school or watching the two construction guys, along with my uncles, build my new garage. It is hard to believe that some of these events happened nearly two decades ago. Where has the time gone?
My parents used these Experience book entries to help me improve my speech and learn to recognize sound. Every night, they would read the entries aloud to me. Then, they would ask me questions about what they just read, have me repeat certain words, or identify pictures. In addition to preschool and speech therapy, this nightly routine would be the foundation I needed to help me identify and comprehend sound in every day life today.
Back in the ‘90s, people had lower expectations of success for deaf children, whether it be learning how to speak or finding stable employment as an adult. Cochlear Implants were just coming out, and there was considerable controversy regarding its success and ethical use. During my pre-school years, I only had two hearing aids, which certainly did not provide me with the same amount of hearing I have today. However, I really don’t remember a difference hearing-wise. Funny how that works. I just know that I spoke and had no issues talking with my friends at birthday parties or with my grandparents at family events.
As Henry David Thoreau once said, “Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”